Biographical Sketch of Josephine Casey

Biographical Database of Militant Woman Suffragists, 1913-1920

Biographical Database of NAWSA Suffragists, 1890-1920

Biography of Josephine Casey, 1876-1950

By Delia Tash, librarian, Penn State University, Abington

Born in 1876 in Shelby, Tennessee to Cornelius Casey and Bridget Casey (née Stephens), Josephine Casey was only three years old when her father died. Her parents emigrated from Ireland and she was raised Catholic, though she later converted to become a Christian Scientist. She had three older siblings: Mary, Sarah, and John. It is unclear exactly what date her family moved to Chicago, but Casey spent her adolescence in Chicago and started to work for the Chicago & Oak Park Elevated Railroad when she was in her twenties. While working there she was in her local union for men and women as well as the Chicago Women's Trade Union League.

Casey made many connections in the onset of her career in Chicago and gave speeches at The General Federation of Women's Clubs including traveling to the Minneapolis, Minnesota convention in June 1906. At this convention she got a reputation for being a bit controversial, speaking up for working women in an assertive manner, and news of the event hit the Chicago Tribune. After, Casey left her job at the Chicago & Oak Park Elevated Railroad and Casey took on a leadership role at Chicago's Political Equality League for Self-Supporting Women. She left Chicago to work in Boston as an organizer and secretary for the Women's Trade Union League. From there she went to New York City as an organizer in the same league. She returned to Chicago where she worked as an organizer for the International Ladies' Garment Workers' Union (ILGWU) for four years.

During her time at the ILGWU Casey worked on strikes in Kalamazoo Michigan and in Cleveland, Ohio where the strike ended without accomplishing what it had sought out. In the strike in Kalamazoo, Casey attempted to bring together women suffragists seeking the vote and striking workers seeking better treatment at work, but it was ultimately unsuccessful as the suffragists of Kalamazoo did not want to mix their cause with that of the striking workers of the ILGWU. During the strike in Kalamazoo, Casey was jailed for weeks and after being released she went on vacation to recover and the strike was settled after she left, ten days later.

A bit of a provocative figure, even though she reportedly denied association with it at one point, Casey became heavily involved in the National Woman's Party (NWP). In fact, for a period of time Casey led the Atlanta Woman's Party. With this association she lost many of her union friends from Chicago who were also not supportive of her later interest in the Equal Rights Amendment. Casey's interests were somewhat divided between union work and suffragist work, ultimately alienating her from both union workers and some suffragists. Casey was also reported to be a bookbinder and housekeeper among her many occupations.

Although she never had children, in her travels Casey reportedly briefly married a man named José Kelly while working in California for the Regional Confederation of Mexican Workers in the 1920s. There is no marriage record in Ancestry and it is unclear why she and Kelly eventually separated, but a record for a Jose Kelly was found in Ancestry as an inmate at the San Quentin Prison, Marin, California in 1930. It is not confirmed whether this is the same person, though. In the 1930s after parting ways with Kelly, she converted to become a Christian Scientist in Boston. She lived in New York after Boston where she eventually died in 1950 after refusing to seek medical assistance due to her religious beliefs.


Josephine Casey and Maud Younger [Photograph]. Retrieved 10 Oct 2018.


Found on Wikipedia


Biographical details for Josephine Casey were found on including birth and death dates as well as other census data.

Amalgamated Transit Union Women's History Month: Josephine Casey, ATU's first female local officer and convention delegate. Retrieved 9 Oct 2018.

Groneman, Carol & Norton, Mary Beth. (1987). To toil the livelong day: America's women at work, 1780-1980. New York: Cornell University Press.

Hirsch, Marianne & Keller, Evelyn Fox, eds. Conflicts in feminism. (1990). New York and London: Routledge.

Hoy, Suellen. (2015). American National Biography. Retrieved 9 Oct 2018.

Nestor, Agnes. (1954). Woman's labor leader: an autobiography of Agnes Nestor. Illinois: Bellevue Books.

Orleck, Annelise. (1995). Common sense & a little fire: women and working-class politics in the United States, 1900-1965. NetLibrary, Inc. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press.

Rupp, Leila J. & Taylor, Verta A. (!987). Survival in the doldrums: The American women's rights movement, 1945 to the 1960s. New York: Oxford University Press.

Scott, Beth. "Kalamazoo Corset Company". Kalamazoo Public Library. Retrieved 14 Sept 2018.

Storrs, Landon R. Y. (2000). Civilizing capitalism: The National Consumers' League, women's activism, and labor standards in the New Deal Era, Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press.

back to top